Cammie is a 12 year old who lives with her father who is the warden of the local prison. They actually live in the prison building and Cammie is able to interact with the inmates on a limited basis. Cammie's mother died saving Cammie from a pedestrian/car accident when Cammie was a toddler, and Cammie desperately misses having a mother. She decides that one of the inmates who works as a housemaid for the Warden should be her surrogate mother, and tries all the tricks she can think of to try to illicit motherly behavior from the woman. Her efforts lead to frustration, and ultimately to an emotional crisis, the resolution of which allows Cammie to move forward with her life.
This is the first book of 2017 that is getting a lot of critical buzz. It is written from the point of view of the main character, now a grandmother, remembering her life during that critical summer before her 13th birthday. It is an interesting perspective, because the reader knows that somehow she makes it through the crisis, but doesn't know how. It also allows the reader to understand why Cammie is so out of control, when the 12-year-old Cammie doesn't understand herself. Spinelli is a brilliant writer, and the book is masterfully done. The ending is absolutely glorious. The only thing I am not sure about is whether it will appeal to children. It almost feels more like an adult book. Still, I am guessing this will be on all the Newbery lists come fall. (343 p.)